When I was training for a marathon, I would fill my pockets with orange slices in Ziploc bags. As weariness snuck up, one or two slices popped in my mouth would push it back and give me strength to press on another few kilometers. God's words and His encouragement sometimes come in bite-sized slices -impressions, experiences, encounters - and are just enough to push weariness back and keep us pressing on a little further...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Running On and On and On...

There’s a determination in weariness that is seldom found elsewhere.  Tired steps have nowhere to go but onward, and though the road home may be formidable, it is feasible.  If steps are possible, they must be taken.  Forward is the only way back. 

I run.  Not because I have high aspirations of being an athlete (I know I am not) or because I have great strength or stamina (I know I have not).  I run because the steadiness of my steps sorts things out in my head.  I run because I love to be outside, to drink in the scents of every season, to see the sun, translucent and yellow from the underside of leaves.  I run because it draws me wide-eyed into awareness of beauty and settles my mind so that new, interesting thoughts find space to enter in.  I run because, more often than not, I run into God along the way. 

But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Two days ago I ran a mile farther than I normally run and for some reason, my body rebelled against the effort.  Tired, sluggish, weary, my muscles whimpered and whined and wanted to stop.   My blood felt thick enough to clog my veins.  I knew we were all capable, even if we weren’t comfortable, so I pushed tendons and muscle and corpuscles on to the end.  Spent and breathless, we crossed the mental finish line, sweet gulps of air beneath boughs of honeysuckle our reward. 

The ordeal was quickly forgotten in the casual busyness of days until my run this morning.  Extra strength seemed to spring from every step, my muscles gliding with ease along the well-worn route.  So opposite and surprising was it from my previous run that I was startled into turning the experience round and round in my head 'til it was sorted.

It seems that the very weariness tempting my muscles to give up on Tuesday was, in reality, the strength-building mechanism enabling them to fly today.   Perseverance through the slow and difficult steps built in them a resilience that wouldn’t have come if I had quit.  Pressing on in the midst of weakness didn’t just get me to the finish line – it actually made me stronger.

I have no doubt that there a plethora of inspirational online posters touting this same sentiment and maybe Nietzsche said it best: “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”  However, in life there’s always knowing something and then knowing something, knowing it in the recesses of deeper understanding that lie at the base of our command centers.  Now that I have seen it and I have felt it, I know that weakness is not a thing to be feared or avoided.  It is the passage through which I often must pass in order to become strong.

I take it back about Nietzsche – God always says it best: 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4)

“…We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

I run because it forces me to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other.

There are times in my life when I feel tired, sluggish, and weary.  My heart whimpers and whines and doesn’t want to go on.  Hope seems so distant and the world so dark, I just want to stop.  But the steps taken on those days are the ones most crucial.  When I have nothing and I understand nothing and my sorrows seem thick enough to clog my soul, all I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I have nowhere to go but onward, and though the steps may be painful, they are also strengthening.  Each step is obedience.  Each step is praise.  One after the other, again and again, step by life-giving step I run after the One who ran to me.

The road is formidable, but it is feasible.  I don’t run it alone.  I run it with the God whose strength shines in my weakness, whose promises include hope, maturity, and a shameless abandon to love.  Difficult runs happen, but if the steps are possible, they must be taken.  They lead onward and upward, to strength and to glory, to the awareness of beauty and God along the way.  They lead me back Home, and when enough steps have been taken, I’ll fly.

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